Myanmar military blocks Facebook and social media as pressure mounts | Social Media News

Myanmar’s military government reportedly arrested at least three protesters on Thursday, hours after blocking Facebook and other social media platforms in a bid to suppress dissent after detaining the country’s elected leaders and seizing power in a Rebellion.

Facebook, used by about half of Myanmar’s 53 million people, has emerged as a key platform for opposition to Monday’s coup with photos of civil disobedience campaigns and nightly protests widely shared.

The Ministry of Communications and Transport said the restrictions would remain in place until February 7.

“Currently, people who are disturbing the stability of the country … are spreading false news and misinformation and causing misunderstandings among people using Facebook,” the ministry said in a letter.

Shortly after, police arrested a number of people after a small street protest in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second city.

A video on Facebook showed around 20 people outside Mandalay Medical University, according to Reuters, in what appeared to be the first protests on the ground since the generals seized power on Monday and detained the civilian leader. Aung San Suu Kyi and many government and party officials. . A banner read “The people protest against the military coup”.

To silence online activity

The decision to silence online activity came after police filed a complaint against Aung San Suu Kyi for illegally importing communications equipment and, as the United Nations said, they were doing everything possible to mobilize a response international military takeover.

The UN Security Council has called for the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees and expressed “deep concern” over the state of emergency. But he refrained from condemning the coup.

The 15-member body said in a consensus-approved statement that they “stressed the need to maintain democratic institutions and processes, to refrain from violence and to fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law”.

Council members include China and Russia, which have veto power and have traditionally shielded Myanmar from significant Council action. China also has a great economic interest in Myanmar.

Online restrictions are spreading

NetBlocks, which monitors online services around the world, said restrictions on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp by public internet service provider MPT appeared to have spread to other providers. People used VPNs to bypass blocks, he said.

“Facebook products are now restricted on multiple ISPs in #Myanmar as operators comply with an apparent blocking order,” Netblocks wrote on Twitter.

Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, confirmed the disruption.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone urged authorities to restore connectivity “so people in Myanmar can connect with family and friends and access important information.”

Most people in Myanmar access Facebook through their mobile phones and it is also a crucial means of communication for businesses and government, although it has been linked to hate speech and misinformation.

“The internet only really became accessible to most people after 2011,” Hervé Lemahieu, director of the Power and Diplomacy program at Australia’s Lowy Institute, told Al Jazeera. “(The bloc) will be terrible in terms of consequences, not only in terms of organizing a response to this coup, but also in terms of conducting day-to-day business and economic activity. These platforms are absolutely essential and have become so over the past 10 years.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the founder of the National League for Democracy (NLD), is under house arrest in the capital, Naypyidaw, according to her party, but the generals have not commented on her fate.

The NLD won about 80% of the vote in the Nov. 8 polls, according to the election commission, but the military refused to accept the result, making unsubstantiated allegations of fraud.

The United Nations said it would increase international pressure to ensure that the will of the people is respected.

“We will do everything we can to mobilize all key players and the international community to exert enough pressure on Myanmar to make this coup fail,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. interview published by The Washington Post newspaper on Wednesday. .

Myanmar army armored vehicles on the streets of Mandalay after the army seized power on Monday. UN chief Antonio Guterres says the UN will do everything possible to ensure the coup fails [Stringer/Reuters]

“This is absolutely unacceptable after elections – elections which I believe went normally – and after a long period of transition.”

“Ridiculous” fees

Police say six walkie-talkie radios were found during a search of Aung San Suu Kyi’s home in Naypyidaw, claiming they were illegally imported and used without permission.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), a group of lawmakers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, have called the accusations against Aung San Suu Kyi ridiculous.

“This is an absurd decision by the junta to try to legitimize their illegal takeover,” APHR President and Malaysian MP Charles Santiago said in a statement, urging the international community to intervene. .

“We have been here before. ASEAN and the international community all know where this is likely to lead us: towards a ruthless military dictatorship.”

In court documents, the police requested the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi “in order to interview witnesses, request evidence and seek counsel after questioning the accused”.

A separate document showed police also filed charges against ousted President Win Myint, who was also arrested on Monday, for breaking protocols to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

As a leader of Myanmar’s democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi spent around 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and 2010 and she remains hugely popular in her country despite the damage done to her international reputation by the plight of the predominantly Muslim Rohingya. .

The military had ruled Myanmar from 1962 until the NLD seized power in 2015 under a constitution drafted by the generals that guaranteed them 25% of all seats in parliament and a leading role in government .

The junta led by army chief General Min Aung Hlaing declared a one-year state of emergency and new elections without giving a timetable.

On Twitter, which remained available in Myanmar, #CivilDisobedienceMovement was the country’s top trending hashtag. Right behind was #JusticeForMyanmar.